The first-ever Global Hepatitis Report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has set a goal of eliminating viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.
The report, which comes as a follow-up to WHO’s Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, contains new baseline data on the impacts of viral hepatitis (hepatitis B and C), regionally and globally.
It also aims to standardise understanding of the disease — an essential starting point to measure progress towards achieving the 2030 elimination goal.
Viral hepatitis is a major public health challenge, one that requires an urgent response. The Global Hepatitis Report shows definitively, for the first-time that viral hepatitis causes 1.34 million deaths (a number comparable to annual deaths caused by tuberculosis, HIV and malaria).
It also says that 325 million people live with viral hepatitis (approximately 4.4 per cent of the world’s population). But only 9 per cent of persons living with hepatitis B and 20 per cent of persons living with hepatitis C have been tested and are aware of their status.
Unsafe healthcare procedures and injection drug use are the leading causes of new hepatitis C infections, accounting for the majority of the 1.75 million new infections.
“For the first time in the history of viral hepatitis, we have an understanding of the true impact of the disease.” said Charles Gore, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance.
“WHO’s Global Hepatitis Report provides us with new data and a set of very specific, global and regional targets to reach by 2030 – for instance global deaths from hepatitis must be brought down from 1.34 million to lower than 469,000 people per year,” he added.
The report shows that since 2000, deaths due to viral hepatitis increased by 22 per cent, while deaths due to other diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV have been declining.
India is known to have a large burden of viral hepatitis (1“4), but national surveillance data are lacking. During 2011“2013, a total of 804,782 viral hepatitis cases were reported to The Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP).